There was little drama for Paul Chryst when it came to recruiting the quarterback position in 2016. After receiving his scholarship offer from Wisconsin during an unofficial visit on March 12 it took Kare Lyles only three days to announce his commitment to Wisconsin, retroactively becoming the first member of Wisconsin’s 2016 recruiting class.
It was Lyles only offer at the time of his commitment but it was the one he had been waiting for. After all, Lyles’ father, Kevin, played tight end for Wisconsin (1993-96). Although he had only the Wisconsin offer, Lyles said he was receiving interest from Northwestern, Notre Dame and Oklahoma, amongst others.
“I know I can be the best that I can possibly be at Wisconsin,” Lyles told Badger Nation. “I can be a team leader, if I work hard I'm confident I can leave a legacy of my own and help Wisconsin continue to build on its football tradition. But I just have to take it step by step in order to get where I want.”
It is easy to see why Chryst likes Lyles, a confident young man who should be able to continue to develop his game. As 6-2 Lyles has a strong, accurate arm and backed it up by throwing for 3,420 yards and completing 71 percent of his passes as a junior. Despite losing his top target from 2014 in Christian Kirk (Texas A&M), Lyles improved on his numbers in his senior year with 3,561 yards passing (ranked second amongst quarterbacks in Arizona), completed 70.1 percent of his passes and 43 touchdowns to six interceptions.
When you post numbers like that, you don’t have many bad statistical games. Lyles was named to the AIA first-team All-Section (all divisions) as a senior and guided Saguaro to its third straight state championship. After his team started 1-2, Lyles helped guide the Sabercats to 11 straight victories by completing 168 of 236 (71.2 percent) passes, 37 touchdowns to four interceptions.
“We dealt with a good amount of adversity this past season,” Lyles said on Saguaro’s 1-2 start. “We had only seven seniors this past season on a 21 or 23 members on the varsity team. Individually I started paying more attention. If guys were late, had a poor work ethic, I would get on them to do their jobs. Not everyone was doing there 1/11th at the beginning of the season. If one guy doesn’t do their job then the offense or defense can’t execute the play.”
In addition to carving up the opposing team’s secondary in high school, the one thing Lyles made sure he didn’t do was put his defense in a bad position by creating turnovers. Over the last eight games of the season, Lyles only threw one interception on 177 pass attempts, not to mention just 11 career interceptions.
“Everything in the position is being able to make good decisions and I take pride in watching film and knowing what a defense wants to do,” said Lyles. “You have to pay attention to the little things. If I do make a mistake I never get flustered, I stay the course, get guys going whether it’s a big play or bad play have to be able to forget the previous play.”
In addition to having a talented offensive line, anchored by his four-star younger brother Kayden, that allowed him to go through his progression, Lyles has the ability to keep a play alive in the pocket, set his feet and throw. It’s a little inconsistent in his film but the one thing that can be said is that Lyles is willing to stand in the pocket and take a hit if it means he can get a good pass off.
Lyles does show elusiveness in his film and is capable of getting away from defenders. When he does decide to run he’s smart about getting out of bounds or sliding to avoid his body taking a big hit. Lyles gives the impression as a pass-first quarterback, as he finished the season with 35 carries for 64 yards and four touchdowns. When Lyles does leave the pocket, it appears that he does a good job of keeping his eyes downfield as the opposing team defense closes in on him before he releases the throw.
The traits Lyles has displayed is something Chryst will be able to work with during the spring. With redshirt freshman quarterback D.J. Gillins transferring, the Badgers only have three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, which will allow everyone to see extra reps at the position. Odds are that he likely won’t be the starter on September 3 against LSU but his development will get a nice kick start in the spring.
“He’s expecting me to come in and compete,” Lyles said of Chryst. “I need to continue to get better with my footwork but I know Chryst and (graduate assistant Jon) Budmayr will make sure that I’m paying attention to all of my details. But the reps I get I have to take advantage of.”
The only other quarterback known with a scholarship offer from Wisconsin was Iowa commit Nate Stanley from Menomonie (WI). Stanley, rated as a four star quarterback and No. 234 overall prospect by Scout.com, received an offer from Chryst and his staff when they were at Pittsburgh as the offer carried over to Wisconsin.
Former Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen didn’t show much interest in Stanley and the lack of attention by the previous Wisconsin staff played a role in Stanley committing to Iowa in November 2014. Chryst aggressively recruited Stanley and spoke on a weekly basis, even going so far as having an in-home visit with him, but Stanley stayed firm on his commitment to the Hawkeyes.
Despite only having three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster for next season, Wisconsin added preferred walk-ons Conor Blount (Waukesha, Wis.) and Andres Castillo (Olney, MD). Blount is a pro-style quarterback while Castillo is a dual-threat athlete, meaning both will bring various skills to the program that will yield benefits.
Likely redshirting this season, Lyles will see big benefits as he continues to learn the playbook and adds weight to his frame. Although Wisconsin only signed one quarterback this cycle, Chryst and his staff will look to potentially sign two in the 2017 recruiting class to help bolster depth, as redshirt senior Bart Houston will graduate.
Signing Day Grade: A